How to inspire your team without saying a word

A million thoughts raced through my mind, and none of them good.  “Do I have hepatitis?  Malaria?  Some blood disorder that I picked up in a far away land?”  As I clutched the phone and awaited the news from this mystery caller, I braced myself for the worst.

“I’m calling about your recent blood donation to the American Red Cross,” said the caller.  “Do you have a minute to talk?  I have good news for you.”

“Wait,” I replied.  “Good news about my blood?  Now I’m confused.”

“Congratulations!” said the caller.  “You won the trip!”

“The trip?”

“Yep.  The American Red Cross and Penn State Sports partnered to offer an all expense paid trip for four to Penn State’s bowl game and you, sir, are the winner.”

And so began a three day adventure in Dallas, Texas with my dad, brother, and father-in-law.
The four of us joined Penn State’s Alumni Association, the world’s largest, for the trip of a lifetime: an end of season football game for one of the USA’s most powerful sports programs.  The game’s outcome was not what we hoped but it was the lessons off the field that really left an impression on me.  At the pre-game pep rally I saw firsthand how what we hear inspires even more than what we see.

About one hour before kickoff, Penn State’s Blue Band marched into the pep rally and fired up the crowd with a series of team fight songs.  Brass instruments blaring, drums pounding..  It was LOUD.  My eardrums felt like they were going to explode as the music pulsed through my body but the excitement around the music made the threat of permanent ear damage seem like a small sacrifice.

Scanning the crowd, I saw crazed fans ages 2 to 90 jumping, clapping, and totally engrossed in the glory of the moment.  This group wasn’t here to watch a game; they were here to live it.  And it was the band’s performance that made the whole experience come alive.

What’s your secret to inspiring a crowd?  Be it your work colleagues, family members, or customers, there are times when each of us is faced with the challenge of inspiring others to action.  Too often, though, we think we have to motivate others with words.  We ask ourselves, “What am I going to say that will inspire this group?”  But words are overrated.

Let’s face it.  Few of us have the oratory gifts of a Martin Luther King, Jr. or Tony Robbins.  Yet we address our colleagues and hope they’ll move mountains based on our inspiring prose.  Penn State’s Blue Band showed me that one secret to motivation is to replace words with music.

Limit your words.  Play great music.  Lead your own team forward to victory!

On another note, I want to thank Penn State Sports and the Red Cross for gifting my family and me with such an exciting trip.

And to YOU – yes, YOU reading this blog right now:  A friendly reminder to donate blood.  Plug in your headphones, crank up the music, and march into a Red Cross blood center to do your part.